Historical specialist Roberts (King of the Wood, 1982, etc.) strides into the present with a lot more confidence than his hero, burned-out LAPD veteran Gabe Treloar, who bungles a suicide attempt on the road to a PI job in Cleveland. He then decides to follow the exit ramp to what turns out to be his old hometown--Monticello, Ohio, where his old pal Lew Czuk (now owner and editor of the local rag) and his old flame Lola Cohan (princess of the local first family) recognize him almost on sight after all these years, and where friendly landlady Edna Tutt can rent him a room in the house he grew up in. It's all too good to be true, of course, and Roberts pulls out all the stops when things go wrong: First Edna is killed after hours of torture; then Gabe's search into her past turns up a fabulously checkered history that ties her in to girlie magazines, a 30-year-old payroll robbery that left four people dead, and, inevitably, Ansel Cohan, the scalawag head of the Cohan clan; finally, a second murder leaves Gabe in the frame, pursued by the rapacious state prosecutor Ansel has lined up as Lola's consort. Luckily, Gabe gets some unlikely help from the local sheriff, whose father was one of the payroll victims, and a hungry reporter desperate to get out of Monticello--as who wouldn't be by this time? Despite too many obvious villains, Roberts's warmth and unsparing insight make the familiar story of Gabe's cathartic return home a special treat for Ross Macdonald fans.